Friday, June 13, 2008

Shopping for Counterfeits

Looking for something fun to do on your summer vacation?

How about going to Hong Kong to buy counterfeit drugs?

Well, that’s exactly what Sharon Flank of Infratrac did. Even better, she wrote Anticounterfeiting And NIR: A Hong Kong Diary, a very entertaining account of her adventures that was just published in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing magazine.

Skip the first part of the article and jump to the fun part, which begins with the heading “Shopping for Counterfeits in Hong Kong” (at the bottom of page 1).

Dr. Flank's personal search for counterfeit drugs in Hong Kong makes a great read. Here’s a neat excerpt in which she explains the advice on counterfeit detection offered by one Hong Kong shop owner (named Penrod Pooch?):

“I asked how to tell which shops had counterfeits. Would they be the ones without a ‘No Fakes’ pledge or authorized dealer stickers? Not at all: if you buy even one pill legally, you get a sticker, and the rest of your inventory may not be genuine. Price is the key. The profit margin on pharmaceuticals is thin, about HK$10, a little more than a dollar. So no one will bargain much on genuine product, because they’d lose money. He suggested that I offer to buy five or six, and see if the price started to move.”

SPOILER ALERT: By the end of the article, she has successfully purchased fake Viagra and some alleged Cialis made by “Lieel” (!).

All in all, this article is an intriguing and scary first-person account that will enlighten anyone who believes that counterfeit drugs are not a threat. John Lechleiter, President and CEO of Eli Lilly, got it right in yesterday’s widely-cited Bloomberg article: “It’s a big issue, it’s a global issue, it’s an insidious issue.'”


Take a quick tour of great health care policy blogging from around the web in the latest Health Wonk Review edited by Jane Hiebert-White for the Health Affairs blog. Thanks to Jane for citing my recent extra-wonky posts on AMP!


  1. AnonymousJune 13, 2008

    Hong Kong Phooey -- love it!! Great reference.

  2. AnonymousJune 13, 2008

    California’s decision to delay implementation of electronic pedigree has not resulted in a slow-down of anti counterfeiting activities. Quite the opposite has occurred with the introduction of HR 5839 “Safeguarding America’s Pharmaceuticals Act”, the FDA request for comments on unique identifiers and trace & track technologies and additional legislation from California (SB 1307 & SB 1270) and other states. Add this to the rising use of non certified internet pharmacies by consumers and the world wide increase in seizures of counterfeit medicine (24 % increase in 2007) and it is clear that the problem of fake medicine poses a significant risk to the health and well being of the public.

    The industry continues to prod ahead with key stakeholders stating their positions on such topics as use of preferred data carriers (RFID and/or 2D barcodes), alignment of the Drug Pedigree Messaging Standards and EPCIS, implementation costs, operational challenges and added business value.

    At the end of the day, the point of this gigantic initiative is to help foil the “bad guys” to ensure that the health of public is protected. Therefore we, as an industry, must identify the target, keep it in our site and make good our course toward the end goal. This is no time to let our guard down!!


  3. AnonymousJune 17, 2008

    Counterfeiting industry would grow more than the Pharmaceutical industry's growth since Pharmaceutical companies focus always more on the bottom line than as an activity of service to humanity. Brand Owners must be reasonable in margin as soon as they launch a new molecule. Yes, lot of costs are incurred while bringing out a new molecule after extensive trials. But you also make it very lucrative for some one to counterfeit since profit of counterfeiting medicines is huge as compared to other products.